The Closed-Loop Edition Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Why Apple Can't Stop Digging Holes, by Adam Minter, Bloomberg

Apple could look to recycle rare earths from products it doesn't make itself; new technologies have made it possible to extract rare earths from old magnets and LED bulbs, for instance. But that would obviously break the closed loop. Other common elements found in Apple technology -- such as tantalum and tungsten, two rare metals used in small quantities -- will be similarly hard to recycle in any cost-effective fashion.

As daunting as the technical challenges are, Apple faces another, more immediate problem: how to get its hands on enough old iPhones and iPads to sustain a true closed loop.

Apple Announces It Has Two Million Final Cut Pro X Users, by Ben Lovejoy, 9to5Mac

Apple said that it hit the milestone some five and a half years after launching version 10 of the professional video editing app. Notably, it said that the pace of adoption was increasing. While the company didn’t provide specific dates, it said that it had taken much less time to grow from 1M to 2M users than it had taken to hit that first million.

Little Flocker Reincarnates As Xfence, A Free Beta From F-Secure, by Glenn Fleishman, Macworld

When security researcher Jonathan Zdziarski took a job at Apple a few weeks ago, I heard from many people concerned about the future of his macOS app, Little Flocker, a tool that restricts apps and system processes access to files without permission. He was unable to talk details, but recently F-Secure, a leading security developer and analysis company, announced its purchase of Little Flocker, which it’s rebranded as Xfence.

I spoke to Sean Sullivan, security advisor at F-Secure, about the changeover and the general current set of risks to Mac users. He said Xfence, which was in release form as Little Flocker, will shift into a free beta mode for the foreseeable future. (Those who paid for a Little Flocker license will get some currently unspecified benefit as future pricing for Xfence and its inclusion in other products isn’t yet set. “Their license will carry through when there’s a paid product,” Sullivan said.)


Latest iWork Updates Bring Back Previously-Removed Numbers Features, by Ryan Christoffel, MacStories

Apple released updates to its iWork suite across iOS and macOS today. The changes largely consist of bug fixes and stability improvements, but a couple of notable improvements were made to Numbers.

Giroptic iO Camera Review: A Pricey, But Capable 360-Degree Camera, by Mike Prospero, Tom's Guide

Giroptic, one of the first companies on the market with a 360-degree camera, has put out a second version, the Giroptic iO, which attaches to the Lightning port on an iOS device (the company also makes Android-compatible models). [...] it takes very good photos and videos, though I noticed a few limitations with this pricey camera.

Tweetbot For Mac Updated W/ Direct Message Image Support, New @ Reply Rules, More, by Chance Miller, 9to5Mac

Keeping up with recent Twitter API changes, Tweetbot for Mac today has been updated with a handful of new features. The update bring the app to version 2.5 and includes features such as @ usernames no longer counting towards the character limit.

Can An App Really Track You After You Delete It?, by Jefferson Graham, USA Today

The app can’t follow you around and know your whereabouts. But app developers can engage in "tagging," leaving behind a unique ID on an iPhone so the developer can recall the apps that were on it and the last Wi-Fi network the phone was logged onto. These marks are used to help a company prove that the phone belonged to an individual, says Joseph Jerome, privacy & data policy counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology.


Banks Should Let Ancient Programming Language COBOL Die, by Már Másson Maack, The Next Web

Despite the fact that three trillion dollars run through COBOL systems every single day they are mostly maintained by retired programming veterans. There are almost no new COBOL programmers available so as retirees start passing away, then so does the maintenance for software written in the ancient programming language.


A Trick That Hides Censored Websites Inside Cat Videos, by Kaveh Waddell, The Atlantic

A pair of researchers behind a system for avoiding internet censorship wants to deliver banned websites inside of cat videos. Their system uses media from popular, innocuous websites the way a high schooler might use the dust jacket of a textbook to hide the fact that he’s reading a comic book in class. To the overseeing authority—in the classroom, the teacher; on the internet, a government censor—the content being consumed appears acceptable, even when it’s illicit.

The researchers, who work at the University of Waterloo’s cryptography lab, named Slitheen after a race of aliens from Doctor Who who wear the skins of their human victims to blend in. The system uses a technique called decoy routing, which allows users to view blocked sites—like a social-networking site or a news site—while generating a browsing trail that looks exactly as if they were just browsing for shoes or watching silly videos on YouTube.